I woke up and spent an hour getting all packed so I could leave my bag at the lodge and go exploring before heading to the airport at midnight. Just before checking out I checked my ticket and found out I'm not leaving at two AM, my flight isn't until after six. So I decided to keep my room today so that I can get some sleep tonight. I went and hit the internet cafe and then dropped off a roll of film on my way into town. I spent a few hours shopping and wandering around Khao San Road - it's amazing how quickly they've cleaned up from the festival last night - the stage is completely gone. I met up with Stacy a couple hours later and we did a final pass down Khao San before heading for the sites.
It being a sunny day today we went back to the Grand Palace to snap a few pictures of the vividly colored domes from the outside (we didn't want to pay to go in again). Unfortunately we got there at three thirty - closing time - and they wouldn't even let us in the gates, so no photos. Instead we hiked around the palace gates to Wat Pho - the temple of the reclining Buddha. It's a fantastic complex of temples - in some ways even more ostentatious than the Grand Palace. The Buddha image itself is a hundred fifty feet long! That's a very big Buddha.
After exploring the complex we decided to head downtown to the bookstores again - I still want to find a Tokyo guidebook and Stacy wants some oceanography texts. Just for fun we decided to be adventuresome and try a new route. We caught the river boat south to the southern skytrain terminus. Not only did we make it (somewhat amazing) but it was a perfect day for a river cruise. It was sunny and the temple of the dawn sparkled. I decided to drop by the hotel my parents were supposed to be staying at since they hadn't called me back and I wasn't sure the reception was understanding me and even getting my message to them. Stacy decided to come with me since I figured they'd possible already left anyway. A quick skytrain ride got us to the Asok station and when we walked in to the lobby the problem of communicating with the receptionist disappeared - there was my dad in the lobby. We went up the the room and exchanged stories for an hour until they had to go to dinner. Stacy and I hit the bookstores. I gave up on a Tokyo book and bought an all Japan guide book - at least I won't be arriving in Tokyo completely unprepared.
Then it was a rush back towards the lodge to get my film before the store closed. I had dinner with Stacy at the Shanti then we got very adventurous and decided to hit Pat Pong - Bangkok's most notorious red light district. We caught a taxi there. I don't know what I was expecting, I guess something very sleazy, but it definitely wasn't the Starbucks that we got dropped off at! It looks like the area's been severely gentrified. We had coffee then decided to explore the night street market. A few steps down one of the soi's and the sleaze factor rose dramatically. In front of every door is two or three people with a "menu" of what the show inside will show you... We didn't go inside anywhere and what at first sounded so shocking quickly became boring in it's repetition. We wandered through the shops for another hour and I even bought a case for my phone. It was getting late and the stalls were starting to pack up so we had a beer then decided that we should go into one of the shows before heading home. We went in to one place with no cover and ordered a slightly expensive beer - it was a little surreal. There were naked women walking around the bar. There were only two other customers in the place - two older white men. One was quite obviously fingering a woman who was draped across his lap, the other guy was almost hidden behind five women who were covering him. On stage there were two sleepy women dancing. A couple women (naked) came up to us and tried to convince us to do something - I'm sure it was hire them, but their English was nearly as bad as my Thai. As we finished the beer the show changed and a woman came out and used a special blowgun to shoot darts at balloons - we left. The bar was depressing, but as we left several of the women smiled and thanked us for coming - the Thai hospitality even there. Somehow the smiles seemed genuine an the sinister-ness of the places faded a bit. We decided that there had to be more to Pat Pong so we tried another bar with no cover charge and 100 Baht beers. As soon as we got our beers they came over with a bill for three hundred each - for the show and a beer. I asked what happened to the 100 B beers and was told the second beer on would be cheaper. We insisted that we were only paying 100 each and they told us to leave. I said after we finished our beer. This place was a lot more prosperous and was nearly full, but it also seemed more oppressive. There were the girls on stage, and there were the bouncers. While we drank our beers we watched women blow out candles and drop Ping-Pong balls into cups. It was even more depressing than the first place - I think it felt as if the women in the first place were more in control. Either way it was not erotic or amazing, it was sad.
We took a taxi back to Shanti and I got home just in time to pack, shower, say goodbye to Stacy and the people at the Shanti and catch my 3:30 taxi to the airport. The taxi was clearly on it's last legs. We never broke 40 kilometers an hour (~25 mph), but there was no traffic, and eventually we got there. In line for the flight I ran into four or five of my parents tour-mates. The security was way more intense than I expected - we queued three times and at each stop were asked the usual security questions and the tickets were scrutinized (originals and the boarding pass). On the flight I was seated on the isle at the bulkhead so I had more leg room - good thing because I think these are the smallest airplane seats I've ever seen. Next to me was a mother with her very loud two year old - doesn't look like I'm going to get much sleep.